Daydreaming tends to have negative connotations. If you’ve got your head in the clouds, you might be labelled as wasting time or lazy. Yet, new research suggests that letting your mind wander could actually be a positive thing.
A common phenomenon
The fact is, everyone daydreams – and we do it quite a lot. Researchers reckon that we get lost in our thoughts around 30-50% of the time, which means that we might spend as much time daydreaming as we do sleeping. One large-scale study found that participants daydreamed approximately 47% of the time.
Although excessive daydreaming can prevent you from getting jobs done, by and large, it’s a process that you should generally encourage and relish for the benefits it can bring.
In fact, scientists claim that daydreaming is the default mode of our thought patterns when we aren’t focusing on a specific task. This means it’s a natural occurrence rather than symptomatic of someone who’s lazy.
Researchers conclude that those people who allow their thoughts to drift experience increased levels of creativity and problem-solving. Opening your mind to new possibilities may even access ideas you might not have considered. Researchers looked at MRI scans of study participants and found that those who daydreamed, had higher levels of creative and intellectual ability, as well as systems in the brain that were more efficient.
In fact, experts claim that you’re more likely to experience a ‘light bulb’ moment when you’re lost in thought. Albert Einstein and the Bronte sisters professed to being prolific daydreamers, where they often obtained their greatest insights and ideas during periods of mind wandering.
Wallowing in your inner thoughts might seem like time-wasting when you’ve got things to do, but scientists argue that daydreaming can actually make you more productive in the long-run. By allowing your brain to switch off and relax, it gives it a mental break from tasks that require you to concentrate and stay focused. This can refresh the brain and provide it with increased clarity. One study found that participants who experienced a daydreaming session showed greater levels of productivity afterwards.
Scientists suggest that some forms of daydreaming can help you to achieve your goals. While fantasy or unrealistic daydreams can leave you frustrated, those thoughts that are within your reach can be fulfilled by weighing up all the options in your mind. If you imagine yourself achieving your goals and work out the steps you need to take in your mind to achieve them, and what obstacles you might face along the way, this can be a positive, reinforcement to turn those daydreams into reality.
You could be forgiven for thinking that allowing your mind to stray is bad news for retaining information, but, actually, the reserve is true. Scientists have found that letting your thoughts drift is beneficial to your working memory, the part of your brain that enables you to retain and recall information and juggle tasks. A finely-tuned working memory enables people to daydream while still getting on with the jobs that need doing.
Daydreaming can be likened to a form of meditation, where you switch off from the here and now and let your mind time travel. Provided your thoughts are of a positive nature, this can help you to relax and reduce stress levels, even lowering your blood pressure and breathing rates.